Date of Award

12-2014

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Oceanography

Advisor

Andrew Pershing

Second Committee Member

Andrew Thomas

Third Committee Member

Michael Alexander

Abstract

Large-scale ocean heat waves can alter ecosystem functioning and fishery productivity. Unlike terrestrial heat waves, little work has been done to understand the dynamics of heat waves in the ocean. This thesis provides a detailed examination of the spatial extent, intensity and frequency of sea surface temperature anomalies occurring in the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans, with a specific focus on extreme warming events. The probability of sea surface temperature anomalies of a certain size is characterized by the Pareto distribution. Interannual changes in the steepness of this distribution (the frequency of large-size relative to small-size anomalies) are related to natural modes of climate variability in the North Atlantic Ocean. This stochastic view of sea surface temperature anomalies supports a definition of ocean heat waves and an estimation of the future probability of ocean heat waves occurring in the North Atlantic and North Pacific.

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